Fulton County property tax assessment notices have been sent and, to no big surprise, confusion has resulted. With the many new homestead exemptions that cap any tax increase to 3 percent or CPI—which was passed by Fulton County voters last November– this is the first tax year that the new homestead exemptions are applied for city and school taxes.

Since 2005, Fulton County has had a homestead exemption in place with a 3 percent per year cap on the amount the Fulton County operations portion of the taxes can go up, no matter what the valuation increase may be. Per the new state statutes for cities and schools, approved by the voters in November 2018, the base is set at the lowest of the 2016, 2017, or 2018 tax year. These statutes require in the first year of the new homestead exemptions for city or school taxes that the base is multiplied by 1.423 for 2019 and 3 percent per year in subsequent years.

The assessment notices do not explain the new state statutes but do reflect these calculations.

Since 2017’s infamous sticker shock with skyrocketing property values, Fulton County has invested millions of dollars to improve the overall assessment process, including technology upgrades, website upgrades, additional staffing and training to improve public interaction with the Chief Appraiser’s office. While Fulton County worked to improve the end-to-end assessment process, we also worked closely with our legislative delegation to pass additional tax relief legislation with a floating homestead exemption cap of 3 percent for many Fulton cities and both school systems, and that has now been implemented for this year’s assessment cycle.

Despite these well-intended efforts, the notices are confusing due to all of the changes for 2019. Some of the common questions include:

· “Fulton Notices don’t reflect tax changes passed in 2018.”

False. The 2019 Assessment Notices issued on June 18 reflect at least one new homestead exemption for every homesteaded property in Fulton County. The homestead exemptions for all jurisdictions for whom Fulton County issues tax bills were all applied automatically and are reflected in the values on the notices.

· “The notices don’t take into account new homestead exemptions that the voters passed last fall.”

This too is false. Property owners can see these exemptions reflected on their notices in the net taxable value, which shows the differences in values and exemption amounts for each taxing jurisdiction. This information is presented in a manner consistent with the similar Fulton County homestead exemption that has been in place since 2005.

· “The exemptions set a cap on value increases for tax purposes.”

This is misleading. Fair market value does not change as a result of the floating homestead exemption. However, the assessed value used for calculating the taxes is capped based on the homestead exemption that is applied. Therefore, you may still have sticker shock when looking at your FMV, but the homestead exemption assures your taxes will not increase by more than 3% year to year.

· “The base value is what’s missing form the latest property-value notices, and has caused confusion for many homeowners.”

Information about the new floating homestead exemptions is presented in a manner consistent with the similar Fulton County floating homestead exemption that has been in place since 2005. The net taxable value on the notices shows the differences in values and exemption amounts for each taxing jurisdiction.

It is also important to remember that the format of the Notice of Assessment is set by state law, and cannot be changed by local jurisdictions. In 2020, Fulton County will again work with our legislative delegation to pass legislation to make the notices clearer and easier to understand.

· “The new homestead exemptions are not reflected on notices for Roswell, Alpharetta, and Milton.”

If you live in the city of Roswell, Alpharetta, or Milton – your new exemption is not reflected because those cities choose to collect their own property taxes and therefore calculate their own homestead exemptions. For a detailed explanation of all new homestead exemptions, explained by reach city, please see the handout included with this posting.

· “My property taxes have increased even with the new homestead exemptions.”

It is also important to remember that your assessment notice is NOT your Fulton County tax bill, and the estimated tax bill included in the notice is based on the previous year’s millage rate. The Board of Commissioners expects to set the new millage rate during the month of August, as will the cities and school systems, and you will receive your 2019 tax bill in the fall after the new rates are established.

As always, if you disagree with your assessed value you can and should appeal your value. The deadline to file your appeal is August 2nd. Complete info is at www.fultonassessors.org

Confusing? Very. Your 2019 notice is likely correct, but needs to be reviewed and verified. You can expect Fulton County to request specific changes for the Fulton Notice of Assessment to request including the information specific to Fulton County during the 2020 Session of the GA General Assembly.

Property assessment is a core function of county government. Accuracy, transparency and simply getting this right is a BIG DEAL!

Please see below for links to additional resources to help you understand your homestead exemptions and assessment notice.

Assessment Notices Resources:

· Fulton County Property Assessment Fact Sheet

· Fulton County Homestead Exemption Guide

· Understanding your Assessment Notice Video

The author is District 1 Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann


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